Residents survive rough ride

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 13, 2008

LEWISTON – William Morris said he now knows what a tornado sounds like.

Meanwhile, one of Morris’ neighbors, Lakeisha Speller, noted she couldn’t hear the tornado….its howling wind was obscured by the sounds of screams coming from Speller and other members of her family.

These are just two of numerous stories of simple survival as a neighborhood located on the Lewiston end of Connaritsa Road witnessed one of Mother Nature’s most feared elements n a tornado, one that struck around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Speller, a 16-year-old Bertie High School sophomore, said she was joined in the residence by her mother, the mother’s boyfriend and a cousin early Sunday evening. They were all aware of an approaching thunderstorm.

“We were looking out the window and saw what looked like hoods from cars flying by,” Speller said. “Then we heard the sound of a window breaking and we all ran to the hallway and got on the floor.”

When asked if she heard the tell-tale “freight train” roar of a tornado, Speller replied that all she heard were screams from the family members, including hers.

“The whole house was shaking….I thought we were all going to die,” she said.

Next door, a small mobile home was picked-up like a rag doll and thrown 50 yards into a nearby field. The debris that littered the field bore the reality of the storm as towels, clothing, a phone book, CD’s, a broom, over-the-counter medication packages, plumbing pipe, lumber, aluminum siding, insulation and even a kitchen sink sat under an early morning sun on Monday.

Neighborhood homes west of the Speller residence suffered major damage, as did vehicles parked in those driveways.

While Speller and her family hunkered down in the hall, Morris and his wife, Thelma, sought shelter from the storm in the bathroom of their modular home.

“We were watching TV when the lights went off,” Morris said. “We heard a roar that got louder and louder at which time we headed for the bathroom and got in the tub.”

Morris said the house started shaking. He could hear the sound of glass breaking and boards snapping. What he didn’t realize until it was safe to go outside was only a portion of those sounds were coming from his home. Other noises were attributed to an automotive garage, located adjacent to his property, breaking apart and littering the side and back yards of his property with debris.

“You know on the (TV) news when they talk to folks who have just been through a tornado and those folks always talk about how a tornado sounds like a freight train….well, they’re right; I’ve now heard it and now I know exactly what those folks were talking about,” Morris noted.

Asked if any words were spoken between he and his wife as the storm roared past, Morris said they held hands and prayed.

“We can thank the good Lord that we’re fine,” Morris stressed. “It was nothing that we did (for protection); the Lord protected us. If you really stop and think about it, I think the Lord is trying to tell us something with all these storms. Maybe it’s time we listened to what the Lord is saying.”

A short distance down Connaritsa Road, even the Lord’s house failed to escape the tornado’s wrath.

The congregation of Luella Baptist Church is left to pick-up the pieces that remain of this historic facility (circa 1887), one which nearly blew completely apart under the wicked EF-2 tornado (winds from 111-137 mph). All that’s left standing is a portion of the sanctuary (an addition constructed in 1985) and the church Fellowship Hall (built in 1999).

“We will rebuild,” Oscar Jones, chairman of the church’s Board of Deacons, said early Monday morning as he viewed what was left of the facility he has attended since childhood.

Jones said despite the loss, he felt the congregation was spared by the Lord.

“We hold services here on the first and third Sundays of each month,” Jones said. “We normally leave the church at around 7 p.m. That’s just about what time this storm came through on Sunday. If that storm had been a week earlier or later, I feel we would have lost more than just bricks and lumber.”

Jones said he has already contacted the insurance company holding the church’s policy. He added there are no immediate plans on where the church members will meet in the meantime.

“As you can see here, the Lord works in mysterious ways,” Jones concluded. “He will lead us and we will follow.”